Volunteering while Traveling

Start by Dreaming

To go places, you first have to dream about it. This is for anything you wish for, in fact. You never know the real effort until you actually do it. So dreaming pulls you into things. This cork wall works as a charm, and post-its also. For South America our dreams each got their own post-it. And we also invited dear friends to inspire us with their dreams. After this phase, the pragmatical side comes in the picture as well.

There is this aspect that we’ve noticed people talk very little about when sharing stories about their travels. The money. Or – if they do, it’s always in a very vague sense. So let us tell you how we’re doing this chapter. From the start, an incursion through South America was not taken lightly, especially as we had to consider we were 3 people on a journey, that none of us had experienced it in this manner before.

We’ve documented from other people and various websites from the net, number.com being the most reliable. So, Brazil, to start with, wasn’t cheap. At all. In fact, it was more expensive than our cost of living in Romania. So, we needed a strategy to accommodate our wanderlust with real-life budget limitations.

And I believe everyone has a budget, it depends on how much they want to travel. For us, the plan was for about 5 months, traveling to Brazil, Peru and then probably Argentina and/or Uruguay.

From previous travels, we kinda figured it out for ourselves that in order to get a bit of the landscape of a region, at least 3 countries should be visited.

Saving Up

So from the beginning of the year 2018, we put aside 20% of our composed income towards this specific travel plan. That rounded up to about 5000Euros. To that, we were adding the maternity leave income earned by Roxana, to be part of our monthly budget, so more than a decent sum. We sub-rented our flat in Cluj to a Romanian expat and her kids for the period we were away. We also rented her Roxana’s car for a symbolic sum, just to make use of it. We only recommend sub-renting if all the furniture and the items in that space belong to you, we wouldn’t have done it other way.

Also, in order to make this really happen, Vlad left his job, part to the travel lust, part to make a different career choice. So, all in all, some bases were covered. Though, one thing still remained difficult till this day. To find affordable accommodation for the period of at least one month. There is no real service for this, at least not at global scale. The best option at this moment is AirBnb for South America, where hosts give you a considerable discount for a whole month. But even so, the places we were finding out didn’t go bellow 750Euros – which is quite a lot for the cost of living.


We needed an alternative to all this. And we found one. Actually, I (Vlad) have used it before, just because I dealt with this problem before, in other travels. And that is, volunteering in exchange for food and shelter. There are 3 websites that have a generous database for this: HelpX.net, Workaway.info and WorldBackpackers.com

This time, we focused on Workaway.info, as it was the most user friendly and has a more robust interface for both sides. And the best part is you have hundreds of hosts ready to receive some help from volunteers all around the world. It’s a great platform to use, especially because you are not really spending too much money. And even more, there is such incredible opportunity to be part of the inherited lifestyle.

On the other hand, it’s still not so easy to find hosts, as you need to search, read the profile carefully, apply through an intention email and so on. It takes a bit of time until you have a list of people you might connect with and go through all the motions.

And we’ve sent around 10 emails, very complexly written. That was more for people to understand that just because we are travelling with Maya, they can still be open to our volunteering. It’s a complicated world and it seems more people don’t want to get their life intertwined with a baby. And we did got replies so short as of a No, thank you, we don’t host babies.


But we were lucky in the end and we found two hosts in Brazil. First is Terra Preta, an eco-farm community near Itacare. Another was volunteering at a Pousada in a place called Itacimirim. We went with both of them, committing to a month of volunteering in each of them. Quite a long time to be spent in Brazil, in isolated places, but in the end, it is also about experiencing the local culture from one viewpoint.

Volunteering is a good cost efficient hack to this immersion that one needs, in order to understand just a tiny bit more the local culture and to skip, as much as possible, the tourist alien syndrome. This is good for all of the experiences ahead, as it puts you, as a traveller, in the middle of things, rather than on the side, while paying too much for such a thin surface view.

And so, we couldn’t have done it so well if we were always moving around. And it would have been a tiring endeavour for us to be always on the move, with Maya being so little. And even more expensive than we could afford.

Having this two commitments, we felt a bit more at ease with our exploration, especially that we wanted a safe and stable environment for Maya, and even more, a social connection to the new world we were about to enter.

The volunteering gave us the time to be together, work on our projects that we’re still developing, learn from other volunteers anything from life lessons to language to just sharing good laughs. They were not necessarily easy, and each spot came with its own challenges, that we couldn’t really anticipate. So, adapt, overcome, and learn from it. Do better next time. We are very happy we had the chance for us to experience this way of travelling, as a family.

And for Maya, it was wonderful, as she met so many smiles each day. Adults and children alike played and developed each moment of growth into a strong seed for the future. For that, will keep on going, still looking for this kind of travels, still trying our fortune while helping others.

So how did everything unfolded in Itacimirim and Itacare, in detail? Will let you know in future posts!

post written by Vlad

CategoriesPlanning Travels

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The Wanderers of Earth